You wouldn’t know about it if you’re not a Methodist, but the bishops of the United Methodist Church will begin meeting tomorrow for the first time ever outside the U.S.
They’ll meet in Mozambique through Monday.
The location is significant because the UMC has become increasingly connected to Africa in recent years. There are an estimated 2.2 million United Methodists in Africa, meeting in 6,000 chuches. There are United Methodist ministries — schools, universities, clinics, hospitals — in at least 14 African countries.
The UMC also operates Africa University in Zimbabwe.
The United Methodist Church, the nation’s second largest Protestant denomination with almost 8 million members, is more than 90 percent white. It is a descendent of American’s first Methodist denomination, which was openly racist (pretty mainstream for the time).
Blacks left the Methodist Episcopal Church between the late 1700s and mid-1800s to form the three historically black Methodist denominations — the AME, AME Zion and CME churches.
When I spoke to Bishop Jeremiah Park, the United Methodist Bishop of New York, a few weeks ago for a profile I plan to write of him, he said that the gathering in Africa would be history-making for his denomination.
“It will be something we’ll never forget,” he told me.
Just last week, the UMC released the “The Africana Worship Book,”:http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?loc_id=1040,1041,1061&act=nav_loc a new liturgy that “addresses the ethos, traditions and innovations of United Methodist worshippers of African descent.”